In December 2005 Frontpage Magazine published an article by Chris Blackburn called Bangladesh: Osama’s New Haven, which claimed that a Bangladesh foundation was a conduit for funds to terrorists. Last week, Frontpage posted a statement on their website with information about a letter they had received from Carter Ruck, solicitor for Trustees of the UK-based charity Muslim Aid, contesting claims made by Chris Blackburn in his article. In accordance with FrontPage Mag’s policy, they posted the solicitor’s letter and also the response from Chris.
Solicitor from Muslim Aid:
We write on behalf of our clients the Trustees of the UK-based charity Muslim Aid in order to record their concerns at the article entitled: “Bangladesh: Osama’s New Haven” published on Frontpagemag.com’s homepage from December 29 2005.
This article, which is still available on your website’s archive, contains extremely serious and highly defamatory allegations which have no basis whatsoever in fact. For example, it is claimed that Muslim Aid UK’s Bangladesh branch, Muslim Aid Bangladesh, is “helping to finance and promote Islamist terrorism in Bangladesh”. This claim is entirely unfounded. Muslim Aid Bangladesh, which is registered with, and supervised by, the NGO Bureau of the Government of Bangladesh, operates in all respects in strict accordance with both Bangladeshi and UK law and there is no question of its having ever financed acts of terrorism or indeed of its ever acting in a manner that is inconsistent with its legitimate charitable purposes.
Your article also seeks to depict Muslim Aid UK as forming part of a dark and tangled web of “radical Islamists” and claims that “branches of Muslim Aid have provided help to jihadi fighters from Bosnia to Indonesia”, suggesting that these claims originate with unspecified “European intelligence agencies”. This is nonsense. Muslim Aid UK is a charity registered with, and supervised by, the Charity Commission for England and Wales which is, as you will be aware, the official body having responsibility for the regulation of the charitable sector in this country. Its regulatory role involves it in ensuring that charities operate in accordance with UK law and with their specified charitable objects. Were the intelligence services actually to have stated that Muslim Aid UK has operated as you suggest, the Charity Commission would have acted without hesitation and launched an immediate investigation into the matter, freezing the charity’s bank accounts while this was carried out. The Commission has done this in relation to a number of UK-registered charities, but never in relation to Muslim Aid. The reason for this is that no remotely credible claims have ever been made, whether by official entities or otherwise, in relation to Muslim Aid’s activities. The fact of the matter is that, since its foundation in 1985, Muslim Aid has demonstrated an exemplary record in delivering genuine charitable relief world-wide in accordance with its motto: “Service to humanity”. This is recognised at all official levels in the United Kingdom, where the charity receives unstinting support and respect.
Our clients invite you to publish this letter on your website so as to ensure that your readers are made aware of the true position. They also ask that, in future, you refrain from tarnishing the good name of Muslim Aid so that it can continue unhindered to benefit the lives of millions of people in approximately 50 of the poorest countries around the world.
Response from Chris Blackburn:
I am writing this reply in relation to your recent letter in which raised concerns about “which your client, Muslim Aid UK, suggests that there are “extremely serious and highly defamatory allegations which have no basis whatsoever in fact” in my article, “Bangladesh: Osama’s New Haven,” which was published by frontpagmag.com on December 29th, 2005.
I strongly deny your suggestion that I was guilty of poor sourcing and inadequate investigation of the claims made in the article. I cannot help but believe that your client, Muslim Aid UK, has raised these allegations in an attempt to silence me from reporting on serious allegations of potential abuse and negligence by the charity, issues which I have explored in the public’s interest. I believe that these questions should be raised before the Charity Commission UK. For the time being, however, let me respond to some of the particulars in your letter:
Bangladesh intelligence: Muslim Aid Bangladesh linked to extremism
You note that I said “was helping to finance and promote Islamist terrorism in Bangladesh.” In fact, Bangladeshi and Indian intelligence agencies claim that Muslim Aid Bangladesh is one of 10 charities and NGO’s helping to finance and promote Islamist militancy in Bangladesh.
New Age and The Daily Star, which are both major Bangladeshi newspapers, published stories in early September, 2005 which documented that Bangladeshi intelligence agencies had submitted a report to the Home Ministry of the Bangladesh Government containing information on Muslim Aid Bangladesh and others charities they believe are funding and supporting Islamist extremists. The National Security Intelligence, Special Branch and Defence Forces Intelligence wrote a joint report on Islamist extremism and concluded that they believe Muslim Aid Bangladesh is involved in the promotion and support of Islamist militancy and should be monitored closely .
Spanish authorities: Muslim Aid is linked to jihadi fighters
You note further that I had portrayed Muslim Aid UK and its branches as belonging to a network of “radical Islamists” and that “branches of Muslim Aid have provided help to jihadi fighters from Bosnia to Indonesia.” In fact, Muslim Aid has 4 main sub-branches–Muslim Aid Pakistan, Muslim Aid Bangladesh, Muslime Helfen (Germany), and Muslim Aid Australia. CNN.com (CNN Online) published a story on December 8th, 2002 entitled “Spain charity terror link alleged” which detailed charities which Spanish authorities believed were linked to terrorism. One of the charities mentioned in a report on al-Qaeda financing was Muslim Aid UK “created in London by singer Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam), which used funds to send mujahadeen fighters to Bosnia.” El Pais, Spain’s largest newspaper also published the details of the report and mentioned Muslim Aid UK.
Muslim Aid links to radical Islamists in Indonesia
The International Crisis Group (ICG), a prestigious think-tank headquartered in Brussels, reported that Muslim Aid UK has been linked to “radical Islamists” and “jihadi fighters” in Indonesia . It has documented Muslim Aid’s links to the Dewan Dakwa Islam Indonesia (DDII) and to their emergency response charity KOMPAK, which acts a charity and jihadi group. The ICG have also linked Jemaah Islamiah (JI), a group believed to be behind the Bali bombings and other atrocities, to the radical DDII and KOMPAK. Kumar Ramakrishna, from the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, has also documented the militant links of the DDII and JI extensively .
ABC News (Australia) and Nick McKenzie, its lead reporter, found that Muslim Aid (Australia) has been linked to DDII and KOMPAK since 2000. In 2003 McKenzie televised a report on how money donated by Muslim Aid Australia to KOMPAK ended up being used to finance a recruitment video for Jemmah Islamiah operatives and their affiliates . Here is an excerpt from that broadcast:
“NICK MCKENZIE: In 2000, Kompak received a one-off $5,000 donation from Muslim Aid Australia, although that charity denies it was aware of Kompak’s JI links. But a bigger source of Kompak funds is Saudi Arabian charities like Al-Haramain, which is closely linked to both to the Saudi royal family as well as Jemaah Islamiah.”
Noorhaidi Hasan, of the International Institute for Asian Studies, has documented that Muslim Aid UK and the Al-Haramayan (Al-Haramain) helped to setup the channeling of funds to KOMPAK since August, 1999 . Muslim Aid UK and Muslime Helfen (Germany) are still channeling money through DDII and KOMPAK. After the tsunami disaster last year, Muslim Aid started distributing funds through DDII and KOMPAK in Aceh and other parts of Indonesia. The channeling of money is still occurring even after the revelations that KOMPAK was linked to JI and militancy by ABC News in 2003.
Muslim Aid Australia promised to stop sending aid to KOMPAK in a press release which criticized the ABC News report, which was issued on Friday 27th June 2003. MMA claim that the money given to KOMPAK was a “one-off” and will not continue funding KOMPAK, here are excerpts from the press release:
“2.) The 7.30 Report knowingly failed to contextualise that MAA’s association with Dewan Dakwah: Kompak was a “one-of”, which was simply borne of expediency and crisis response. MAA is not a conduit, a source of on-going supply, of funds to Kompak. MAA is only a conduit of funds to bona fide aid organisations and bona fide aid activities; and, will do all in its power to prevent the contrary from occurring.
3.) The 7.30 Report knowingly failed to contextualise the time frame in which MAA made that “one-off” disbursement to Dewan Dakwah: Kompak.”
Suliamie Agus Dwikarna, a founder of KOMPAK, is currently serving 10-17 years in prison for illegally possessing explosives. Dwikarana helped to bring al-Qaeda members into Indonesia for training in militant camps operated by Jemaah Islamiah. In 2005, Sidney Jones wrote in The Asian Wallstreet Journal that Zulkarnaen (Aris Sunarso), the head of military operations for Jemaah Islamiah ran a militant training base on Buru Island, Indonesia, which was financed by KOMPAK.
Dwikarana also acted as a guide for two al-Qaeda leaders who visited Indonesia in 2002. Before he was arrested Dwikarna gave an interview where he claimed KOMPAK did not have links to terrorism:
“As far as I know, KOMPAK has always been fully transparent, and at any time, one can know how much funding it has received and from what sources. KOMPAK’s sources are legal, from official institutions as well as individuals, both here and abroad. Within Indonesia, KOMPAK raises funds openly, the results of which are reported in the media, particularly Media Dakwah. In terms of funds raised abroad, KOMPAK has been able to work with popular international institutions such as Muslim Aid in London; al-Haramain in Saudi Arabia; the International Islamic Relief Organisation; and Mulhaqdini, the religious attaché of the Saudi embassy in Jakarta.”
European officials believe that Dwikarna is linked to al-Qaeda cells in Europe. CNN has reported that European investigators reported that Dwikarna brought al-Qaeda operatives from Europe to train in Indonesia; in camps which they now believe were financed by KOMPAK.
Aris Munandar is also a founder of KOMPAK and is linked to Islamist militancy. According to a U.S. Treasury Department fact sheet, “Munandar facilitates and provides support to JI activities in Southeast Asia. He is a close associate of JI leader Abu Bakar Bashir. Munandar is a graduate of Bashir’s Islamic boarding school, Pondok Ngruki, and a member of Majelis Mujahidin Indonesia (MMI), an organization that Bashir helped found and later directed. He is also the head of KOMPAK, a non-governmental organization that produced videos used in the recruitment of JI members. Munandar is considered to be Bashir’s assistant. Munandar procured explosives at the request of Bashir… Munandar also facilitated recruitment and training for JI and al-Qaida activities in Indonesia. Munandar, working with al-Qaida operative Umar Faruq, is suspected of providing military training for recruits to join sectarian fighting in Sulawesi.”
Chris Blackburn concludes his response saying that:
Muslim Aid has been linked to militancy in Bangladesh, Bosnia and Indonesia by Spanish intelligence, Bangladeshi intelligence, CNN, International Institute for Asian Studies and the prestigious International Crisis Group (ICG). ICG and other leading think tanks have reported that Muslim Aid branches have helped to finance KOMPAK, an Islamic charity which is linked to Jemaah Islamiah operatives and finances militant camps in Indonesia.
Aris Munandar and Agus Dwikarna, both of them linked to Jemaah Islamiah and al-Qaeda, were founders of KOMPAK. Even after the ABC News investigation in 2003, Muslim Aids sub-branches have continued to give money to KOMPAK.
I believe that the facts (and sources for them) described above show that my article was carefully researched and written and that it constructs a fact pattern that substantiates the points I have made.
Christopher J. Blackburn
Chris also noted the following links to prove his write-up carefully researched and well written.
http://www.achrweb.org/reports/bangla/BD-0205.pdf (Asian Centre for Human Rights)
http://www.icg.org//library/documents/asia/indonesia/074_jihad_in_central_sulawesi_mod.pdf (International Crisis Group)
 http://www.icg.org//library/documents/asia/indonesia/074_jihad_in_central_sulawesi_mod.pdf (International Crisis Group)